Nearly $5M in state proposal for Sequim CTE project

Budget bill at Inslee’s desk

SEQUIM — The Center of Excellence — the Sequim School District’s hoped-for center for vocational and other studies that garnered local support but failed to get funding in the previous state budget — may come to fruition after all.

Ned Floeter, director of Sequim School District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, along with other district leaders and a group of community backers, connected with state legislators to try to bring a CTE facility to Sequim last year.

That drive included successful efforts to raise $1 million in funding and in-kind services from local groups and government entities, but failed to earn funding in the 2023 legislative session in Olympia.

However, a push by state lawmakers has an amended version of the project back on the state’s radar.

A proposal from state House leaders has nearly $5 million for the Sequim’s Center of Excellence in the supplemental budget (Capital Budget Bill 2089), which makes supplemental capital budget appropriations for the 2023-25 biennium.

On Tuesday, state senators passed an amended version of the supplemental budget — one that keeps the funding for Sequim’s Center of Excellence — and it has moved on to Gov. Jay Inslee for final approval.

“It’s not a done deal; we’re not at the goal line yet,” Floeter said.

Floeter credits Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend — who represents Legislative District 24 which includes the North Olympic Peninsula — in particular for keeping the project alive.

“He didn’t promise me [but] he said he’d try to get something [in the next budget],” Floeter said.

He also credited Sen. Lisa Wellman, chair of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education, along with Sequim schools Superintendent Regan Nickels and district facility committee members, for their efforts to pursue the CTE facility funding.

“It takes leadership at all levels,” Floeter said.

The $1.3 billion supplemental budget passed on Tuesday makes what state Democrats call “historic investments in school construction,” increasing state support in the School Construction Assistance Program from $271 to $375 per square foot - a total increase of $79 million in support for school construction.

The budget also includes $68 million for skills centers and other career and technical education facilities, and $114 million for the Small District & Tribal Compact School Modernization program, which helps districts unable to pass their own school bonds for construction.

About the center

Floeter, who is also the principal of the districts Olympic Peninsula Academy and Dungeness Virtual Academy, said he used a needs assessment soon after taking over as CTE director about two-and-a-half years ago and found the unenviable task of trying to convert 50-year-old classrooms into state-of-the-art, industry-grade facilities.

“You just can’t do it,” he said.

In the following months, the vision for the CTE Center of Excellence developed into a call for $15-$17.5 million from state sources to construct the facility that would not only house state-of-the-art classrooms and facilities but act as a community emergency shelter and events center.

School leaders and advocates sought local funds or services following a visit last summer from Wellman. She recognized the need for a CTE facility in Sequim, project backers noted, but the proposal needed community good faith funding.

Within a few months, and helped in large part by the Clallam EDC and Sequim’s two Rotary organizations, the effort got $250,000 in backing from both the City of Sequim and Clallam County. Other contributors included the Albert Haller Foundation, Clallam Economic Development Council, Habitat for Humanity of Clallam County, and the Sequim Association of Realtors.

“I really believe it’s been a groundswell of support,” Floeter said last week. “They see the need — not just for a building but a program. The building is one part of the equation.”

After failing to find a spot in last year’s budget, Floeter said that vision was scaled back to $4,990,000 in the supplemental budget bill for what backers are calling Phase 1: a 10,000-square-foot structure with two large bays and two or three classrooms that would serve the district’s automotive and construction classes.

Floeter said he can envision this facility, what he dubs “significant learning space,” for allowing for students to work on projects such as a cross section of a house, at the same time as students in another part of the facility work on automotive projects.

Missing from those plans is a revamped culinary arts space, but Floeter noted that “this [center] probably has multiple phases to it.”

The structure is being envisioned as a space that can either be added onto or complemented with a similar but separate structure, he said, based on what funding will allow, giving Sequim the ability to be flexible and add industry appropriate education as new fields emerge.

Floeter also said there’s an opportunity to partner with such entities as Peninsula College and Bremerton-based Olympic College to have a Sequim campus, akin to the college’s campus in Forks.

“Even people outside the county are seeing the benefit of something like this,” Floeter said.

The goal, he said, is to help Sequim students to move seamlessly into the workforce. Part of the approach is not only having the facility to do the work but to incorporate how business training their apprentices and use the same language that workers in those industries use.

He pointed out how CTE instructor Kevin Phillips had more than a half-dozen Sequim High students earning “workforce training” time in the automotive/mechanical/welding fields over the summer.

“That’s happening because he’s investing in relationships with local businesses,” Floeter said. Those kids are leaning the language right now; they will be light years ahead of others [who join the trade].”

“[This can] be something special for our entire community.”


Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other newspapers Peninsula News and Forks Forum. Reach him at

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